Since the early 1980s, when the first cases were diagnosed in the USA, an estimated 78 million people have been infected by HIV and 39 million people have died of AIDS and AIDS-related illnesses. There are currently 36.9 million cases worldwide, according to UNAIDS.
Every year the number of people living with HIV increases, a fact that can be interpreted both positively — more people have access to antiretroviral treatment — and negatively — the HIV/AIDS pandemic continues.
The availability of triple antiretroviral therapy in the mid-1990s marked the transition from fatal disease to chronic infection. But despite the enormous progress achieved with HIV, global efforts to prevent and control new infections continue to encounter obstacles.
Worrying numbers of people contract the virus each year: 2 million people were infected in 2014 (220,000 of whom were children) and 1.2 million people die from HIV every year.
Some 80% of people living with the virus are concentrated in just 20 countries: South Africa, Nigeria, India, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, the USA, Russia, Zambia, Malawi, China, Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Thailand and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, HIV/AIDS continues to be a global health problem. The rate of new infections and deaths has seen an increase in recent years in some regions of Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa.
Spain has notified a total of 34,690 new cases since 2003. Although the infection rate has dropped considerably (from 12.38 cases in 2008 to an estimated 9.34 cases in 2014 per 100,000 people), the rate is higher than the EU average of 5.9 cases per 100,000 population.
The life expectancy of a person infected with HIV who has access to treatment is nowadays similar to that of an uninfected person, although the treatment is both costly and toxic over the long run.
In 2015 UNAIDS announced that 15 million people were on treatment worldwide. This means that there are still 22 million persons — mostly living in low-income countries — for whom HIV is a death sentence.
For these reasons, research to improve current treatments and to develop a definitive eradication strategy represents one of the most important scientific and economic challenges ever faced by the scientific community.link